Most of us know Puglia only because of its trulli houses and Bari, port for the Greek island ferries. Few venture further south – yet Puglia’s lower province, Salento, is pretty special, full of southern Italian ebullience and a heady mix of traditions.The coast north of Gallipoli is heavily Arabic in architectural style.  At Giurdignano, a prehistoric menhir towers over an underground Byzantine crypt, which is still used today for worship.But go inland and there are some superb “classical” Italian towns: Lecce, known as the Florence of the South, is replete with Zingarello’s baroque carved churches. And there’s Gallipoli’s old town on its island bridge, Oria, Manduria and Galatina.Until the recent past, Salento was quite poor and isolated – as you can see in Eduardo Winspeare’s movie, Il Miracolo – but is now enjoying a cultural renaissance and celebrating its spicy mix of ancestors and influences.Add to this some pretty nice beaches, baking sun and a general desire to party to musical styles from pizzica to house, and you can see why the Italians themselves love the place so much.



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